The Story of Man and Art (Part IV): Art as Science

Christopher Columbus in the 15th century set out his sails and began a voyage of lifetime, to find the coast of India and discovered the treasure trove of America. Columbus was living legend in his time, one of the most popular figures in the period when art became the way to pave science. By the 12th-13th century, the world had expanded its horizons and had come to exist in the geographical demarcations that we live in today. Europe with its extensive trade and India with its reach raw material, fine cloth and maritime excellency had reached the epitome of splendor. Central Asia saw the rise of something called ‘Islam’ that was going to change the face of the world to come. The narrations of the previous times were not now sufficient to entice the larger and diverse group of men.   


Art was now open to explorations by masters of line and colour and composition, rather under close scrutiny of the mathematical thinking. Modern man looked at art as a form of understanding the wonders of nature, it was the science behind human emotions. No longer was the world a miracle created by god alone, even man was miraculous now. He could create machines that could out pass the mammal capacities, he could foresee the natural calamities and he could cure the wrath of god, the diseases!


This period of exploration in Europe was called ‘renaissance’ the rebirth of man’s vision, his wider capacity to look at the world. The artists of this period were scientists and mathematicians and engineers who discovered and analysed and built in their own prowess. They were Brunelleschi, Leonardo and Michelangelo’s of this world. These artists were not content with what was seen by the eye alone. What we saw was an illusion of light and shadow. They explored the human below the skin trying to understand the structural anatomy. They restructured the way buildings were built, they intensified the use of perspective. Most significantly, they made art into a medium of human vanity to understand the secrets of worldly affairs and art now became a science.


Henceforth, art moved beyond narratives so as craftsmanship. Artists were creators who could parallel the beauties created by gods. Art could be used to create something that had never existed before. This anxiety to invent, this urge to design was dominant in artworks till almost the advent of Age of Enlightenment in the 17th century. Art from modern western man was more of a visual experiment, illusion to vision while giving the best possible spectacle to the connoisseur. The change thus brought in an avalanche of thinkers and philosophers and for the first time beauty in real life and beauty in art were now independent from each other.  Thus came about the science of understanding art, ‘aesthetics’. Aesthetics which is the antonym of anaesthetic (anaesthesia) , literally meaning experience in conscious state.     


Art for a larger period of time in Europe was thus governed by the pragmatism that came about with classicism and continued to be rule of the day till a large part of history passed. We shall be looking at the different aspects of science, like perspective, proportion, light geometry and form in continuation. In order to understand a large part of classical art, one requires to keep in mind, as Leonardo has said: Art is the mathematical solution of reality. 

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